Following a program fall 2008 in Chicago with representatives from the executive search industry, it became clear to me that we need to take the onboarding (formally assessing) of newly placed executives much more seriously. 

Years ago, Tyler & Company made arrangements for clients to utilize assimilation services, known to us as Transcendrefor such placed executives. We have recently continued those services through Fred Laquinta, former Human Resources leader at AtlantiCare. 

Among other things, Fred is an executive coach and offers of host of valuable services to hospitals and companies outside of healthcare. For our work, Fred is available to meet with a placed candidate and the key constituents on site beginning about 60 days into the new executive's tenure. The service includes a 360-degree evaluation and is identical to the one on our Website. 

The goal of onboarding is to identify any pitfalls and correct them in the early weeks. In Larry Tyler's words, “Molehills become mountains ....”  That is, an executive can be doing something that is bothersome, but not know it. Indeed, he/she may be the last person to know if the executive is new to the organization, as the informal networks have not been established.

One friend who is a CEO of a large organization was puzzled after a meeting with some physicians shortly after he had assumed his role. An argument had broken out unexpectedly and, it wasn't until he had returned to his office when he received a call from one of the attendees. The voice said, “Don't worry, that wasn't about you - those two have been fighting for several months about something unrelated to the agenda." Fortunately, this physician had been a long-term friend of the new CEO in another venue and was able to tip off the CEO about the true background of the squabble. It was an informal network connection for someone new to the job. He was lucky.

At the ACHE meeting, the importance of onboarding was reinforced when it was related that a new CEO of a local hospital had upset a community service organization when he took a cell phone call during the organization’s meeting. Other corporate executives knew of the informal policy that cell phones are forbidden in these meetings long before the new CEO did.

In executive search, some recent metrics are troubling. Within Fortune 500 companies, newly placed CEOs (not promoted from within the organization), who have been parachuted into a firm, do not typically last as long as they should. In fact, 40 percent leave within 18 months. It is also known that executives who are provided with onboarding or executive assessment services tend to stay longer than those who do not receive such helpful services.

So, the conversation at the ACHE meeting touched on the idea of executive search companies and the College working together to emphasize the importance of onboarding for new CEOs to help increase the odds of success. Since the average tenure of a hospital CEO is just under four years, the need speaks for itself.

Perhaps we should approach this issue as we did when an employee wanted to "opt out" of health insurance coverage. The employer required proof of coverage through other means before the employee was permitted to drop coverage. If our client chooses not to take advantage of the onboarding service that we make available, perhaps we need to see evidence that the client provides such services.

For our part, we are putting our money where our mouth is. For those who take advantage of onboarding, we increase our performance guarantee. Perhaps if we all work together on this important topic, we will move the metrics.